To Swear or Not to Swear, That Is the F***ing Question.

swearing-cussing-bad-words-censorship-blogging
“Wait, we aren’t allowed to cuss here? Shoot! Gosh darnit!” — (Image Credit: Bill Smith [https://www.flickr.com/photos/byzantiumbooks/] Cropped and adjusted for color. Subject to CC 2.0 License.)
I like to swear. Like, a lot. In my daily life, I swear so often my wife is genuinely afraid I will turn our future children into foul-mouthed street urchins willing to flash their giblets for cigarette money. But it’s important to remember there are exactly three types of people who swear:

  1. Those who will use the occasional bad word, but only when they’re super pissed.
  2. Those who use bad words in nearly every sentence, applying them as filler for an underdeveloped vocabulary.
  3. Those who swear because it’s awesome.

It’s hard to describe why, but there seems to be an inherent kind of honesty to swearing. When used at just the right moment, a good swear word can hit the ear with a sense of relief. That sense of relief stems from sincerity and confirmation of the experiences and emotions we all share. I would argue people who are willing to swear — but only in the heat of a strong emotional reaction like anger or fear — are not exercising good taste by choosing not to swear at other times; they’re exercising repression. The words are still very much inside these people, but they’re being stamped down and saved up for the moment they lose control. That shit freaks me out, man. Like a bunch of time bombs dressed up in bow ties and evening gowns.

In public spheres, people who cuss with pointed intent display an inclination to take risks others might not. He or she is willing to say something without regard for the fact that it might very likely offend someone. Swearing is actually quite brave, especially when addressing a crowd. Of course, a good speaker doesn’t have to swear in order to lend power to their words. In many cases it would undermine the strength of the message itself. I sincerely doubt Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr. or Abraham Lincoln ever gussied up their speeches with a well-timed f-bomb — but it would have been funny if they did. Imagine Ghandi sitting cross-legged in his undies, addressing an entire division of British soldiers with both middle fingers raised high to the sky: “Gentlemen, I would like to peacefully request you all fuck right off back to England.”

When it comes to humor, swear words are an incredibly powerful tool. They can punch up a joke with far more energy than it would have with safer word choices. They can even become the joke in and of itself. They give fire to funny stories, so you get the feeling there’s genuine emotion behind them. Again, there are plenty of successful comedians who stay clean, like Jim Gaffigan, Jerry Seinfeld and Demetri Martin, and although I love these guys, I don’t laugh out loud at their jokes nearly as often as I do those who choose to swear. (God, I so desperately want to see Jerry Seinfeld go ballistic on stage. Just once, before I die: “What’s the deal with marriage? I was the best man at the wedding. If I’m the ‘best’ man, why is she marrying that motherfucker?”)

See, what I want from comedians is more than just wit, keen observation and good timing; I demand full-on, can’t-breathe, uncontrollable belly laughs, and for me, that takes raw honesty. The way people actually think and feel. My personal favorites among the “dirty” male comedians are Bill Burr, Dave ChappelleJim Jefferies and Louis CK. My female favorites are Chelsea Handler, Iliza Shlesinger, Amy Schumer and Sarah Silverman. Have you seen Bill Burr’s special, I’m Sorry You Feel That Way, or Dave Chappelle’s special, Killin’ Them Softly? Oh my Christ, the next time you’re having a bad day, just YouTube either one, and five minutes later you’ll be laughing out your dickhole. I promise.

Hell, I re-watch my favorite standup specials all the time because they inspire me to write better blog posts. It’s like homework; they keep me sharp, punchy — and most importantly — they remind me to take risks. That’s why I choose to swear in my blog posts; it’s the kind of humor I want to read.

But it is verrrrrry easy to overdo it, especially with f-bombs. I try to limit myself to one f-bomb per post, a couple shits, one heartfelt goddammit and as many dicks and titties as I want. The f-word is the single most powerful tool in anyone’s humor arsenal. But when used in every paragraph, it loses all potency and becomes a crutch for lazy writing. It starts to sound repetitive and cheap. Low-class, even. Have you ever seen that show Deadwood? While not a comedy, the characters dropped multiple f-bombs in nearly every sentence. I’ve heard all sorts of reasons trying to justify its overuse, but the reasons don’t really matter when the language itself is a distraction.

The same goes for blog posts. Overdo it, and you’ll lose your audience. But a well-placed, context-appropriate f-bomb? Hilarious! Of course you might discourage a potential advertiser or two, and you’ll definitely offend some small portion of your readership. But so what? Many people were raised by their parents to straight-up abhor swearing, and there’s no real reason for it. All kids are going to learn about swearing at some point, and they’ll be faced with the unavoidable fact that it can actually be a useful form of expression. To teach them it’s wrong is just going to put them at odds with their natural emotional reactions as adults. Instead, kids should be taught swearing makes them sound stupid until they learn how to use it properly. (That, and they’re probably going to spend a lot of time in the principal’s office when they tell their homeroom teacher her breath “smells like dog shit.”)

But some folks just can’t stand the sound of bad words because they hit their ears like nails on a chalkboard. No reason for it, but they won’t hesitate to tell you they don’t like it. Personally, I think this is a matter of misplaced priorities, but if they want to try and clean up the internet one scathing comment at a time, they can go right ahead. (The rest of us will be having an awesome time laughing our nipples off.)

The bloggers of the world owe it to themselves to write exactly what they want to write, and nothing less. If someone doesn’t like it? Fuck ’em. We’re all gonna die someday, and I, for one, refuse to spend my last few breaths on this earth wishing I hadn’t been such a giant pussy.

Thank you for reading and have an awesome day!

— OGM

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10 thoughts

  1. I am cool with swearing – I think when you talk to Germans about swearing, you preach to the converted. Only very, very few tight-assed people get their knickers into a twist about the occasional “Scheiße” (stronger in German than “Shit” is in English). Though there was one young lady on the radio who did (I immediately changed the radio station …)
    On my blog swearing is allowed. Not mandatory. And I will comfort myself with
    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/swearing-vocabulary-smarter_us_56707516e4b0fccee170417a
    We are the ones with a better vocabulary!

    Like

  2. I have found that my German husband and his family curse more than any other people I know. Esp. my father in law. I have spoken to my husband but of course being German he tells me he will f&%king curse whenever he wants to.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I love how swearing in German is a functional non-event, just a stronger version of their ever present societal rage. That, and even speaking with a German feels like being sworn at. Even better is how the English-speaking Germans all seem to prefer English “fuck” over German “ficken.” Some even roll their eyes when I propose that they keep the cursing in German.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I long for the days of the “Flachwichser” I never understood it as a kid and I still don’t, but there is something beautiful to it.

    Like

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